November 9, 2016. One of my myriad jobs is as a curator at Bryn Mawr Rehab Hospital. The hospital holds a large collection of artworks created by artists with disabilities. In addition to the collection and the reason for its annual expansion is a juried international exhibit the hospital holds. This is my preface to an incident that occurred today. Today. After. I was in a mood that can best be described as sullen, impotent, enraged and overwhelmed with sadness. I really miss my mother today. I’m sure she would’ve had quite an earful to give me about the election. But that didn’t happen, so, I was virtually on my own. Driving to the hospital, which is located in Malvern. Chester County. Not the poor part that’s always on the news but the northern tony part. A few weeks leading up to the election I began to see TRUMPPence signs popping up like mushrooms after a rain; mind you, I also saw Hillary’s arrow, but, not as much. Not only were the Trump signs multiplying but also were getting bigger as Tuesday approached. I say all of this because I want to justify my being in the hallways of the hospital for most of my time there: I’m constantly looking after, hanging and/or rearranging the works that hang throughout the place. There’s this guy, I suppose he could be referred to as a co-worker, rather than a colleague because although I see him everyday, he rarely says anything beyond a good morning. Whenever I do come up on him or see him from a distance he trudges his way through the day, kind of hunched over, like, he’s trying to appear smaller. He’s like 6’6”, a big white dude. Then there was today. Today was different. I saw him coming towards me in this big confident stride, he was almost skipping. For the first time I saw a smile and heard as he slowed, a hearty “Good Morning!” “how’s it going,” he asks. Despite his attempts to appear shorter, today, I had to look up to him for the first time. He continues with the conversation, one-sided mostly as I only respond with a word maybe two. He wants to know my favorite piece, complements me on how the exhibition looks.
I wonder what made the sudden change in attitude. This guy was genuinely happy in a way I’ve never seen in him. Of course, if my candidate won I would’ve also mimicked that same gait, jauntiness. Mine would be fueled by the feeling of having room to breathe, of feeling, like the progression to being seen and respected continues. I wonder if his look of joy thinly disguised his feeling that he/they won; white men, that is. That the white race was saved and that the greatness of America lie in the purity and dominance of his race. Maybe it’s a coincidence, but, I don’t think so, not down in my bones.
One of my routes back to Philly takes me through Wayne. I take the route, even though it’s longer, as a change of pace. Last time I drove that route was on the weekend. Central Baptist Church is on that route. For over a year they’ve posted a sign on their lawn, BLACK LIVES MATTER. Quite an oddity for a church in that part of the country. Over the year, it’s been vandalized and repaired, however, today, as I drove by I found it missing. Its absence made me heavy.